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Drugs and drama on penultimate day

A blood-inspired marathon win and an emotional triumph for Iran's footballers dominated the penultimate day of the Asian Games here Sunday as a drug scandal rocked India's athletics team.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2002 20:52 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

A blood-inspired marathon win and an emotional triumph for Iran's footballers dominated the penultimate day of the Asian Games here Sunday as a drug scandal rocked India's athletics team.

With 42 more gold medals settled ahead of Monday's last day of action, one of the most determined individual performances on Sunday came from North Korean marathon runner Ham Pong-Sil.

Suffering from a stomach ache attributed to living in the famine-ravaged Stalinist state, Ham was driven to the finish line by a blood-written message on her wrist from friends, and thoughts of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

"I could feel the Great Leader Kim Jong-Il was looking after me, and I was able to finish the race well," she said after finishing in 2hr 33 min 35sec.

"There was a blood-written promise (to win) on my wrist from my friends."

Her time may have been modest, but it was more than enough for Japan's Harumi Hiroyama and Hiromi Ominami who finished second and third.

Ham later revealed the effects of living in the starving North began to take their toll near the end of the 42.2km race.

"When I got to the top of the hill at the 40km mark I felt a lot of stomach ache, but I didn't give up," Ham said.

"I haven't been eating food in my country, and I think maybe I had digestive problems."

With only the men's marathon to be run Monday, China heads the athletics medal table with 14 gold, most of them in women's events, after winning three of eight finals Tuesday.

Indian athletics officials spent Sunday digesting the news that women's 1,500m gold medallist Sunita Rani had returned a positive sample following her victory in the race last Thursday.

Jagdish Tytler, chef de mission of India's Asian Games team, said the 22-year-old runner had protested her innocence at a hearing convened by Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) officials on Saturday.

Rani is reported to have tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone but Indian officials insisted they had not been told of the substance detected in her urine sample.

Tytler said only that according to the OCA "a banned substance" had been found in the athlete's system.

Long after the morning athletics events had packed up from the Busan Main Asiad Stadium, all eyes were back on the arena Sunday evening for Iran's football final against Japan.

Iran, who had been forced to regroup after skipper Ali Daei withdrew from the squad last week following the death of his father, successfully defended their 1998 title with a 2-1 win.

Javad Kazemeyan and Mohsen Bayatiniya were the goalscoring stars of the night but they had to survive a nervous last few moments when Satoshi Nakayama grabbed a late reply.

The Asian Games' boxing competition climaxed with 12 gold medals and surprisingly little in the way of controversy following various juding rows earlier in the week.

South Korea's trio of Kims earned the hosts three golds but Uzbekistan were overall champions by winning five.

"We are the best in Asia now," Uzbek boxing official Alisher Kadirov told AFP after Asian champion and Sydney 2000 Olympics bronze medallist Rustam Saidov prevailed over superheavyweight Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov of Kazakhstan to bring the tournament to a close.

Dildabekov, who also won a silver in Sydney, was the only reigning Asian Games champion who reached the final here.

The hosts won three titles, the Kazakhs two, while Thailand and Pakistan gained one apiece as the balance of power shifted to the two former Soviet republics.

The former Soviets won the the five heaviest divisions, along with the featherweight gold.

The semi-finals of the men's badminton tournament also passed off peacefully, with Indonesian favourite Taufik Hidayat easily seeing off South Korean Shon Seung-Mo.

Hidayat had stormed off the court in a rage during his game with Shon in the men's team final, forcing a two-hour interruption. But there was no repeat of the fireworks as Hidayat easily won 15-10, 15-7.

He will play another Korean, Lee Hyun-Il in Monday's final.

First Published: Oct 13, 2002 20:17 IST